A rainbow-coloured trail of feather boa fuzz seemed to embellish the streets leading to Wembley Stadium. Harry Styles’s fans love to accessorize in the glam style of the British pop megastar himself, and stepping into the cavernous venue felt like crossing a lively sea of glitter, feathers and pheromones. By showtime, the mood was giddily excitable, and Styles exuded joyous enthusiasm from the moment he bounded on stage looking harlequin-like in heart-print dungarees — a boy-band survivor turned solo phenomenon.
It was the first of two Wembley dates in Styles’s ongoing Love On Tour, which began in Las Vegas in late 2021 following Covid delays and is scheduled to continue into 2023. He opened with “Music for a Sushi Restaurant” (also the first track on his recently released third album Harry’s House), which was fantastically catchy yet also self-consciously arty, a fitting choice for a 28-year-old who splices commercially oriented pop with outlandish couture choices.
Twelve years have passed since Styles’s audition for The X-Factor, which led him to join One Direction and propelled him to global fame. While that experience made him accustomed to commanding stadium-sized crowds—his tuneful vocals soared over the deafening cheers at Wembley—he is now a world away from conventional boy band poses. Styles’s solo career has been built on a series of landmarks, including releasing his first album and making his acting debut in Dunkirk in 2017, wearing a frilly gown as Vogue’s first male solo cover star in 2021 and co-headlining Coachella Festival earlier this year. The heady energy at Wembley indicated that he had no intention of letting that momentum slip.
The production was relatively unfussy: no choreographed dance troupes or multiple costume changes; Styles, accompanied by a slick backing band, tore through a set of slow-burning funk, Transatlantic soft rock and summertime bops. He picked up a guitar for “Golden” (from his 2019 album fine line); for previous generations of pop performers, this might have been a gesture of “serious” masculine musicianship, but Styles, who has never seems weighed down by such drab notions, remained cheerfully carefree.
He was in his agile element during upbeat numbers springing around the stage, and for self-care anthem “Matilda” moved on to a catwalk that took him into the reeling heart of the crowd. Side-stepping the projectile gifts of cuddly toys, he seized an LGBTQ Pride flag and held it aloft to screams of approval. Styles draws on numerous androgynous pop culture pioneers for his image — David Bowie and Freddie Mercury obviously, but also contemporary talents such as Olly Alexander.
It didn’t seem to matter that the between-song banter was pretty pedestrian. Styles still summoned a hugely persuasive charm, and when he challenged the audience to “have as much fun as I do”, they rose to it with gusto, forming a giant conga line during “Treat People With Kindness”.
While Styles’s success is global, every UK date is designed to feel like a homecoming. He explained that while he’d been born near Manchester (where he played a few nights ago), London had shaped his career. He managed to come across as both sensitively inclusive and supremely confident: delighting loyal Directioners with a blast of his former band’s smash hit “That’s What Makes You Beautiful”, and saving some of his best solo work (“Watermelon Sugar” and recent single “ As It Was”) for a final firework. This show didn’t just feel like a coming-of-age show — it was Styles casting off boundaries, finding his groove and soaring with it.